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From Rock 'n Roll to Root Beer: Parlor Beverages Founder Josh Balz Talks Musical Entrepreneurship

Parlor Beverages appeals to lovers of rock 'n roll, pinup style, root beer, and everything in between. The left-of-the-dial soda company was founded in 2021 by Josh Balz, John Phillips, Mat Giordano, Kris Jones, and Aaron Bruch, all of whom have a background in the music industry.


Phillips owns MCR (the largest event company in Northern Pennsylvania), 900 Management, and has experience as a tour manager for Body Count and Public Enemy. Balz played keyboard for acclaimed metal band Motionless in White before lending his expertise to other rising bands, as well as founded The Strange & Unusual Oddities Parlor, Strange Brew, Legacy Recording Studios, and Noir Dark Spirits. Bruch has background as bassist and vocalist for multi-platinum band Breaking Benjamin. Entrepreneur and investor Jones owns SEO company LSEO.com, and Giordano is the Creative Director and President of Pressure (a full-service digital firm), owner of Horror Hub Marketplace, and former guitar tech for Benjamin Burnley.

Together, the dream team has developed a treat for all the senses, bringing meticulous care to every detail of Parlor's products and branding.


Images courtesy of Parlor Beverages via Trendsetter Marketing

The company's super-sweet approach has proven extremely effective, with Parlor Beverages adding 2-3 new distributors (between 400-600 stores) per quarter beginning in Q2 of 2023. An influencer campaign to reach 20 million followers has already amassed 11.2 million supporters, and the root beer has quickly become a staple at rock music festivals across the US. Further, Parlor Beverages obtained 501(c)(3) organization status in order to launch its Mental Health Awareness and Community Impact Fund. The soda company has made significant donations both to a homeless shelter and to the Children's Foundation, hoping to assist in supporting causes related to both homelessness and mental health advocacy.


Parlor's streamlined marketing fosters a culture of nostalgia. Whether the term "parlor" takes consumers back to their grandmother's formal sitting room or into a 1950s ice cream shop with black and white-tiled floors, the company's title and aesthetic harkens to a unique blend of vintage and modernity. Parlor root beers allow for a level of direct buyer-to-product connection otherwise lost in today's market, building not only a brand, but also a culture. The iconic nature of Parlor Beverages extends beyond a bottle you'll definitely want to keep; the company offers opportunities for fans to actually become involved with furthering the business. Through their growth campaign with Republic, consumers can actually own a piece of the company and take an active role in supporting its future growth by becoming investors.



Available flavor profiles consist of root beer, birch beer, and butterscotch root beer, but Parlor is currently working to expand their soft drink selection, with a cream soda and diet root beer on the way. The brand prides itself on being vegan, gluten and caffeine-free, naturally sweetened, and non-alcoholic, allowing for nearly everyone to enjoy Parlor products regardless of allergies, age, and food preferences. Additionally, Parlor Beverages plans to continue outreach and involvement in the rock music scene and beyond in order to become a household name.


We spoke with Parlor Beverages co-founder Josh Balz about his transformation from touring musician to entrepreneur. Crack open a Parlor Root Beer and read the full interview below.


 

Tell us about your background in music.

When I was younger, my dad fucking loved Black Sabbath and heavy bands–some gnarly shit. He bought me a keyboard, a guitar, and drums and told me to figure out what I liked. I became friends with the guys in Motionless in White when I was a teenager and actually started by selling their merch. At the time, they had this keyboard player and he didn’t show up to a practice one time. I said, “I’ve actually been learning all of your songs, so don’t stress about this… I’ll cover.” I knowingly tried to take that job when I was 16; I stepped in and just played the parts.


I definitely faked knowing a lot more than I actually did at 16 playing keyboard and we started out playing almost no shows. We’d play in front of like six people on a good day. We kept grinding and I was in Emotionless for over a decade. It was crazy because we grew from playing for nobody to playing in some of these European festivals for 50,000+ people. We toured in a van, an RV, a bus, we flew to places, and I got to experience every world of music. I’m so appreciative of that world and how it’s given me everything I have today. A lot of people hate on the music industry, but it’s really given me so much. It sucks and it’s beautiful.


Would you consider rock your first love?

Absolutely, a hundred percent. My mom loved Aerosmith and my dad loved Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Pink Floyd. It’s crazy that it’s now like a 60-year-old style of music. My dad was in the service; he had skull tattoos and knuckle tattoos. He was a hard ass and he loved rock music, so I got it from him. I’ve grown up in that lane my entire life.


Share about your transition from performing to tour management.

I wanted nothing to do with music after I quit. I was so bitter. I thought I was growing as a human being. It felt like we weren’t a band anymore… we were a business. I really hated it because I loved the dudes and I felt like it was tearing us apart, so I quit and told myself I was never getting back into music. I stayed away from music for a while and then ended up getting back into it by helping a lot of bands move forward based on the things I knew. I knew what to look out for, what was a bad idea, and what was a good idea for a rising band.


It was more or less just me instilling knowledge into baby bands that started from absolutely nothing and got to playing arenas and stadiums. A lot of new bands just want someone to talk to ‘em and tell them what they should do. I was always that guy, and even though I’m 33, I feel like I’m way older sometimes. I started when I was so young that I just have so much experience in that world and can take other people under my wing in that way. It was really nice to be back in the music industry after hating it for a while.


How did you make the jump from music to root beer?

It’s amazing how much music and root beer have in common. I’ve lived 15,000 lives and when I was in the band, I started a store called The Strange and Unusual. We sold everything from Victorian furniture to human skulls to bugs and frames. As was typical of any goth rock band dude, it was like, “this guy sells some fucking weird shit”.


So, I started getting into entrepreneurship while I was in Emotionless and it coincided with music. When I quit the band, I had way more time, so I started delving in to other avenues of being an entrepreneur. I fell in love with something again after being so bitter about music for so long. I opened a restaurant called Noir. It’s a goth-themed restaurant/bar in Scranton and it’s amazing (if I do say so myself). If you’re ever in Pennsylvania, please stop by.


When COVID hit, John Phillips reached out to me and said, “I’d love to start a vintage bottle shop.” Initially my reaction was, “um.. No, it’s COVID,” but we eventually did decide to do a root beer brand. I knew nothing about root beer except that I love to drink it. We spent eight months trying to make the best product we could, and I’m really proud of how it turned out.


"I fell in love with something again after being so bitter about music for so long."

What was the biggest challenge for Parlor coming out of the pandemic?

I think the biggest challenge is honestly figuring out how to make people tick again after COVID has become less taboo. You see brands come out that sell out completely and it’s influencer-based things that have that same-ish formula. We wanted to get people interested in things again–to get them excited again. It’s crazy because it’s not about just having a great product anymore, it’s also a marketing game. We’re not just a root beer brand, we’re a marketing company. You see people like Liquid Death that are just billion dollar companies. I don’t think they’re a water company, they’re geniuses.


How did you and John develop your marketing and branding strategies?

It’s honestly an extension of who we are. Everything that has to do with Parlor is an extension of each one of the owners. I love old muscle cars and I’m obsessed with that pinup, hot rod, loud music era. Even the bottle, if you look at it, and the casing is an extension of who we are. The bottom of the box says dumb stuff when it gets shipped to you. Every aspect of the product, from the parlor bottle to the shipping box to the four pack is unapologetically us. That’s the reason why we’ve become so passionate.


"Every aspect of the product, from the parlor bottle to the shipping box to the four pack is unapologetically us."

How did you choose the name Parlor?

It’s pretty funny and I’m gonna throw John under the bus here. He came to me and said, “I have an idea for the name of our root beer”, and I was like, “John, what is it?” He goes, “I want to call it Rock ‘n Roll Root Beer!” And I immediately said, “no, you’re an idiot.” We’ve known each other for a very long time and I felt comfortable calling him out on that. I thought that if you told anybody in the world you were going to drop a drink called “Rock ‘n Roll Root Beer”, they’d smack you right across the face.


As I mentioned before, I own the Strange and Unusual Oddities shop, which got me thinking about the vibe or a barber shop or a vintage ice cream parlor that we wanted to appeal to. I was just obsessed with the word “parlor” for some reason and it really suited our vision. It’s such a nostalgic word; some people think of their grandmother and fancy couches you don’t sit on, other people think of pinup culture,.. It’s really open-ended. It’s kind of a personal thing to each person who’s drinking our root beer, which is really cool.


What’s next for the brand?

We’re working on sponsoring a bunch of music festivals. Welcome to Rockville, Sonic Temple, Louder Than Life, Blueridge Rock Fest, and more… Our world is rock and metal, so we really want to be a part of that culture. We’re putting ourselves right in front of the people who are our peers.


As a flavor profile, we’re going to do a cream soda next. We’ve also put out a poll asking if people would prefer a cream soda or a diet soda next, and diet got the most votes, so we’re also going to veer and do a diet root beer. Hopefully, that should be coming out within the next few months. We’ve already started doing a lot of designing and testing for these projects. One of the good things about Parlor is that we don’t use artificial sweeteners and we are a vegan and gluten-free product. We only use cane sugar, so when it comes to a diet soda, we don’t wanna use anything artificial.


The biggest challenge there is asking how you can replace the sweetness of sugar in a natural way. There’s this thing called monkfruit that I’ve been obsessing over lately, so we’re looking into that. That’s the only piece of the puzzle that we need to figure out.


Where do you see Parlor in ten years?

I see the company becoming the household name of root beer. When you think of this specific type of soda, you think of all the memories and childhood moments that have accumulated throughout your life. I remember having my first root beer with my dad at an amusement park and I want to be that for other people, too. I want to be that brand that people collect not only the bottles, but the cases, refrigerators, merch, signs, and everything else. I love what Coca Cola did; they’ve created something wonderful in the soda world, where you don’t have to drink the soda to love the signage and iconography. I see Parlor not only following those footsteps, but also surpassing those and building a brand that lasts. I want people to say “Parlor” instead of “root beer”.


"I remember having my first root beer with my dad at an amusement park and I want to be that for other people, too. I want to be that brand that people collect not only the bottles, but the cases, refrigerators, merch, signs, and everything else."

Tell us about the charity aspect of Parlor.

Parlor actually has 501(c)(3) status, which goes toward the Parlor Community Impact Fund. We’ve already written two checks: one to the Children’s Foundation and one to a homeless shelter. My business partner and I both came from nothing and we want to give back as a company now that we have that ability. We want to support people like us–musicians, mental health advocacy, homelessness–and gear that help mainly toward the younger generations. We’re super proud of that and we hope to see the fund raise billions of dollars to help people who are going through tough times.


"We want to support people like us–musicians, mental health advocacy, homelessness–and gear that help mainly toward the younger generations."

Is there anything else you’d like people to know about the company or the product?

We’re in the middle of a growth campaign with Republic. We’re raising funds to get some growth capital and be able to take these next steps in co-packing and expanding our business. We just launched that and you can find it at republic.com/parlor. Consumers can actually own a piece of the company, rather than just paying to get a 12-pack of root beer shipped. We wanted to give people an opportunity to be involved in actually furthering the company.


Who are three other music industry professionals or entrepreneurs you’d like to see covered on Enharmonic Magazine?

Blasko is one of the minds behind Liquid Death and its branding. He owns a company called Brand X and he’s probably one of the most fascinating people I can think of. All he does is post about cats on Instagram, which is amazing on its own, but he’s also a very intelligent, entrepreneurial person. He used to play in Black Sabbath and now he just builds brands. I think he’d be a great person to speak with.


Neil from A Day To Remember opened a biscuit shop and he’s in the entrepreneurial space now, too. He’s really cool and it’s amazing to see bands going outside of a comfort zone in creating these things.


Finally, one of my best friends in the entire world, Bobby Schubenski, started a company called Blackcraft Cult. He’s one of the best people in the world and he’d kill me if I told you the name of his former band because he’s wiped that identity from his life, but he also came from the music performance world. He was the merch guy in a band and then started his company with a hundred dollars… fast forward to now, they’re a $20 million-a-year company. He’s a very intelligent human being and I really look up to him.


 

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